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Man studying logistics in a warehouse office

Why Is It Important to Study Logistics?

Without logistics, the commercial world as we know it would grind to a halt. We’ve already seen what that might look like—with the recent coronavirus surge delaying shipments and stalling production across the world. People with advanced logistics expertise had to step up and look for new ways of doing things.

Logistics is critical to a healthy world economy even when the world isn’t in crisis. The global logistics sector, currently valued at $8.6 trillion, moves hundreds of billions of dollars in freight every year. Now, as new technologies evolve and change what logistics work entails, it’s more important than ever to develop this critical skill set.

What is logistics and why is it important?

Logistics is the process of planning, organizing, and managing the movement of goods and raw materials in the supply chain. The logistics industry separates the supply chain process into five specific areas:

  • Planning: Delivering the right amount of raw materials to meet consumer demand
  • Packaging and unitization: Packing and bundling products to preserve their quality 
  • Inventory control: Warehousing and storage of materials, components, and finished products
  • Transportation management: Contracting with shipping providers to deliver materials and goods as quickly and cost-effectively as possible
  • Information and control: Gathering and interpreting data to develop the most efficient logistics strategy possible

Different logistics services professionals are responsible for different parts of the supply chain, from procurement and storage of materials to transportation and delivery of finished goods.

For example, a logistics manager for a large electronics company might be tasked with getting raw materials from a supplier in Japan to a factory in China. From there, the logistics manager has to find the best route to distributors and retailers across the world.

As another example, a logistics manager for an e-commerce retailer coordinates the movement of consumer orders from warehouses to end-users, possibly with a distribution center along the way. Amazon does this particularly well, strategically placing distribution centers to minimize the distance between products and customers.

Logistics ensures the supply chain runs smoothly so companies get the materials they need and consumers get the finished goods they want with as little disruption as possible.

Why is learning logistics important?

Businesses depend on logistics professionals to keep production and delivery moving forward. Studying logistics is the first step toward meeting this critical business need and building the foundation for a future-proof career.

Revenue optimization

A company’s bottom line depends on cost control and income growth. Logistics contributes to both. 

When you understand the ins and outs of logistics, you can find cost-cutting opportunities along the supply chain. Most importantly, you can find faster ways of getting products to where they need to go without sacrificing quality.

Timely and reliable deliveries also increase customer satisfaction, which improves a company’s reputation and creates a competitive advantage.

New technologies

Today’s logistics professionals have access to a growing set of technological resources that make planning easier, simpler, and more effective. For example:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions power automation in route planning, warehouse picking, inventory management, and more
  • Supply chain visibility tech lets logisticians view conditions in real time, enabling faster responses
  • Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can track the location of shipments

By studying logistics, you can familiarize yourself with these technologies and become more competitive on the job market across industries and trades.

Changing global economy

The coronavirus pandemic wasn’t the first disruption to rock the supply chain, and it won’t be the last. As economist Susan Lund told McKinsey in 2020, issues like trade tensions, cyber crime, and natural disasters will always be threats.

When you study logistics, you learn about important solutions for logistics crises in the past and present. You learn how to respond to crises and create proactive strategies that minimize a disaster’s impact. You also learn what works—and what doesn’t—to routinely minimize cost and improve shipping speed.

Should I study logistics management?

Logistics management is a good topic to study if you’re interested in making it your career or simply want to understand how commerce moves. Professionally, it’s a lucrative skill set with high growth potential, now more than ever.

Demand for talent

The global supply chain crisis highlighted a growing shortage of logistics professionals. The Association for Supply Chain Management reported in 2021 that for every six vacancies, one qualified candidate exists. 

The biggest problem is finding professionals who understand data and its role in logistics planning. Digital technologies have become a critical part of logistics over the past few years, and training plays a critical role in helping professionals adapt.

Career opportunities 

According to the U.S. News and World Report, Logistician is one of the best business jobs available. It pays a median salary of $76,270 per year and is growing at an above-average rate; there will be 56,000 new jobs over the next decade.

A logistics skill set opens the door to thousands of job opportunities. LinkedIn currently lists more than 54,000 positions in industries ranging from pharmacy to solar energy. Logistics companies like C.H. Robinson, XPO Logistics, or UPS Supply Chain Solutions also have an ongoing need for candidates with up-to-date expertise.

Transferable skills

The supply chain impacts all aspects of a business’s operations. The more you learn about how materials and goods move between centers of production, the more you can do to optimize a company’s operations.

Once you’ve acquired a strong knowledge base of logistics, you can pursue additional training and move into operations management, supply chain management, or corporate finance. Logistics skills can also help you qualify for management and even executive positions, since you’ll have advanced knowledge in cost control and negotiation.

Get started in logistics management

There are multiple paths to a career in logistics management. Some join the field with a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, which covers topics like materials sourcing and procurement in addition to logistics. Others study outside of a degree path, completing a logistics management course or certificate program.

edX offers courses in logistics and many logistics-related subjects, all online and geared to varying levels of expertise. Complete an intro course, get a certificate, or earn a supply chain management degree—whatever works best for you and your career path. Explore logistics courses today and see what appeals to you.

Who knows? You may be the one they call on in the next crisis.